Friday, August 31, 2012

Garden Update Aug 31st 2012

My first time having a garden in 10 years...and its not doing so good.

I dont understand it. The only thing that could possibly be wrong is the extreme heat which makes watering inconsistent and possibly over crowding.

Anyways, all the vegetables that I planted have failed.
All the tomatoes had some disease which shriveled the leaves and stems before they died off. They managed to produce some TINY fruits, many with blossom end rot. I found out Roma tomatoes are notorious for blossom end rot. I had an Early Girl hybrid variety too, that just died.

The only one I'm left with is a straggly but still growing Super Sweet 100 vine. It has not suffered so badly from the disease like the other tomatoes. It produced a few fruit, all tasting really bitter. They also got ripe when a terrible heat wave came through in June which I think caused the bitterness. Since then it has not produced anymore fruit...

I will NEVER buy vegetable plants from Walmart again. They all had diseases later on. I will always grown my own from seed.

This includes the Black Beauty Zucchini and Straight Neck Squash plants that I purchased from walmart too. At least the zucchini produced 1 nice sized and tasty zucchini before it wilted into yellow leaves and died. I tried everything, fertilizer, epsom salt water spray, and antifungal sprays, nothing kept it alive.

Anyways, today I pulled the squash plants out and replaced them with some $0.88 each Mums that were on sale at Home Depot. They are perennial in my zone so that is a bargain.

Also pictured are some Gladiolus bulbs that will hopefully bloom soon. They are my favorite summer flowers, along with my Zinnias.

My Zinnias are finally starting produce quite a few flowers. I wish I had bought the Zinnia "Green Envy", and "Queen Red Lime" when I had the chance. Now they are all sold out and I will have to wait until next year.

My California Giant Sweet Peppers are another issue. All the peppers ripen when they are this tiny. I fertilize and spray with Epson salt water which has greatly increased the amount of flowers produced. They taste and smell wonderful, but are way too tiny.

It is hard to see, but there are 4 pepper plants in one 11 gallon bucket. Perhaps over crowding is the culprit for the tiny peppers.

There was a Roma Tomato growing in this upside down planter. It died. But I planted Sweet Mint and Lemon Tyme on the top and they are growing profusely. I love Sweet Mint.

My Sugar Baby watermelons. I harvested one that got to 3 lbs. Still small for this variety of watermelon. The flesh was perfectly pink inside, but it had no flavor. It tasted like water. Anyways, there are 3 more growing so maybe those will turn out better.

This is how I'm growing the watermelons on my tiny apartment balcony. They are doing really good. They had problems with some kind of disease but after removing the diseased leaves and spraying it with an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial spray they are doing great. These were bought at Walmart...will never do that again.

These are green onions that I bought in the grocery store and planted into my garden. Now I have an endless supply of green onions. There us also a yellow Gerbera Daisy which I have harvested lots of seeds from for next summers garden. Also rosemary is growing well and some cilantro seedlings.

Seriously, I had a hard time getting even this small amount of Cilantro to grow. I had lots of seedlings in June, but after the heat wave they all died. I thought Cilantro loved heat... but I found out it doesn't. So I scattered some new seeds among the shade offered by the green onions and they are doing much better. I use lots of cilantro in my cooking so I cant wait for these to grow bigger.

This is my Ginger plant grown from 2 pieces of ginger tubers I bought at the grocery store. I had tons of ginger left over and I didn't want it to go to waste in my fridge. I soaked them over night in water and planted them in this pot back in July. These things grow very fast.

My new seed tray for Fall 2012. Hopefully they will all sprout. They should be ready for transfer into the garden in 2 months.

Chicken breast, to chicken stock, to cream of celery soup all in one purchase

It all started with a sale at my local Kroger. Chicken breast on the bone, were $0.99 per lb. Wow. That is a great deal where I live.

I live on Galveston. An Island pretty much removed from everything. My grocery options are limited to 3 stores which do not have a significant focus on healthy natural and organic foods. I would have to drive 1+ hours to Houston to get to a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes. Also our farmers market is once a month, or non existent in some months. The nearest farmers market for me is 45 minutes away. So it is very frustrating trying to eat healthy when my options are so few and very far removed.

My local Kroger has a small organic section in the store. But I'm not impressed. Their prices are crazy high compared to online options or stores that specialize in this kind of stuff like Whole Foods.

And after all that ranting, the chicken breast on the not even organic. Oh well. I do not have affordable organic, open range, and grass fed meat options anywhere near me. So I make do.

I bought tons of this chicken. And I mean tons. Chicken breast is so versatile, and of all chicken meat cuts its the healthiest.

After cutting off all the meat from the bone, I processed my own chicken breast into either whole breast pieces, breast tender pieces, or ground chicken for burgers and such. Then I wrapped portions in plastic wrap and then put them inside freezer bags. Since the meat is wrapped I can reuse the bags over and over again. Then label the bag and date it so you know what is in there.

Then I'm left with a huge pile of bones, skin, and fat. What to do now? I'm very frugal and I dont like to waste stuff. Chicken stock popped into my head.

Let me express something to all you people who buy store bought chicken stock: store bought versions TASTE LIKE WATERED DOWN SALT WATER compared to the homemade stuff.

Seriously, I was shocked by the huge difference in color and dense hearty flavor from the homemade version compared to store bought. Mind you, I have no brand preferences or flavor preferences some other people do. I'm not picky. But there actually is a huge difference to note in homemade chicken stock. I will never use the canned or box stuff ever again.

Many people don't make their own stock because lets face it, cooking it for 4 hours on the stove top while your kitchen gets insanely hot and you have to check up on it all the time to make sure it doesn't boil over foam is not fun. Your solution and savior with this dilemma is a huge crock pot.

I dont have a recipe for chicken stock made in the crock pot. But this is what you do. Fill it half way with bones, skin, fat, etc... and then put whatever veggies you have on hand such as celery, carrots, onions, and garlic (just put the entire cloves in there no need to peel them) and whatever herbs and spices you like. Just dump it all in there. No need to chop things up either. I just broke the celery and carrots into pieces and cut the onion in half. Then fill with water to the rim. I set mine to cook for 4 hours on high, then another 4 hours on high, and finally on low for 10 hours over night. This ensures that you cook the heck out of those bones and extract every last bit of flavor. When all is done, remove the bigger pieces of bone etc.. with a slotted spoon and then pass all the liquid through a strainer into a big bowl. Then you get nice clean stock. At this point you can taste it and add salt or whatever spices you have to adjust to your liking.

Now this is pure chicken stock without preservatives. So I preserve mine in the freezer by putting it into canning jars. I have a large crock pot, I think it is 6.5 quarts. This made me 4 -16 ounce jars. I had so much chicken bones left over from the deboning process that I made a second batch, producing 8 jars total.

Ok, so now I'm left with a huge head of celery. I hate celery. For me its only purpose is to extract its flavor into soup. You could also plant the stump in your garden and it will regrow. So will I do with it? Make homemade cream of celery soup. This can be used to make a billion things that I will like. Such as smothered pork chops or a chicken casserole with all the chicken breast meat I have. And does it surprise you that this also tastes amazingly better than the thickened milk and salty water tasting store bought version? Also it is all natural and no preservatives. So this also gets put into jars and frozen. Make it in the crock pot with not much effort required on your part.

 I choose to follow this recipe to make mine: Cream of Celery Soup. The instructions are for cooking over the stove top. To make in the crock pot add the chicken stock and all the veggies into the crock pot, and cook 4 hours on high until those veggies are really soft and released all their flavor. Make the roux with the flour and margarine by cooking it until its thick and bubbly. Then slowly add in the milk stirring constantly. Add the salt and pepper. This is your thickening agent for the cream of celery soup. Wisk it into the stock with veggies until its nice and creamy.  And your done. I had 5- 16 ounce jars which I also preserved in the freezer.

I spent $12 for 12 pounds of chicken breast on the bone, which resulted in about 9 pounds of meat, 8- 16 oz jars of chicken stock, and a boat load of cream of celery soup. I probably spent another $3 on the celery, carrots and garlic that I used to make the stock and celery soup. So $15 for all this is a bargain. I cant even buy 12 pounds of chicken breast for that price when its not on sale.

Anyways, this is just an idea to use your dollar bills and ingredients to the maximum without any waste.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Awesome Toothpaste Deal at Target

I'm not sure how long this deal will last, but its a great price to stock up on the large 7.6oz colgate and crest toothpaste.

Target has a deal where if you buy 3 select Colgate or Crest toothpastes at $3.49 each, you will get a $5 Target gift card. This might last through Saturday, unless the new sales that start Sunday carry this offer over again.

Even without coupons this is a great deal.

3 toothpastes at $3.49 each = $10.47 out of pocket, but you get  a $5 Target gift card you get after making the purchase.

That is like paying $5.47 for 3 large toothpastes, or  $1.82 each

What is really nice is that the Crest 3D White toothpaste and Pro Health varities are included making for some very good toothpaste selections.

To make the deal even sweeter, find some coupons. has a $1 off 1 Colgate coupon, which can be found by clicking HERE.
Print as many of these as you can. You can print 2 from each computer. Try to at least get 3.

Since this is a store coupon, you can stack it with the following manufacturer coupons:

Colgate coupon for $0.50 or $0.75, or $1 off found in the SmartSource August 26th issue. Coupon value varies per region.

Colgate coupon found in SmartSource August 12th issue. This is for Max Fresh variety. I'm not sure yet if it is included in the offer or not. Will check back on this later.

Colgate Total Advanced $0.75 off 1 coupon, click HERE. Total Advanced variety is included in the deal.

Check HERE for any coupons on the Colgate website.

$1 off 2 Crest Pro Health toothpastes, found in the Redplum July 29th issue EXPIRES AUGUST 29th so use it now. Pro Health varieties are included in this offer. This is a target store coupon so it can be stacked with Crest manufacturer coupons.

$0.50 off 1 Crest Toothpaste, Proctor and Gamble August 26th issue.

$0.75 off 1 Crest Toothpaste, Proctor and Gamble July 29th issue. Expires August 31st so use it now.

Ok, so once you gather up your coupons, the most ideal combination would be 3 $1 off 1 Target store coupons printed from the website, combined with 3 $0.75 off 1 Colgate coupons. This brings your out of pocket total for 3 Colgate toothpastes to $5.22. Then you get the $5 gift card, so its like paying $0.22 for 3 toothpastes.

So I'm going crazy on this deal....
So far I have 6, today I'm going back for 6 more.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Free Childrens Clothes

Thred Up has some great deals on gentle used quality childrens clothes.

When you sign up using my link below, you will get a $10 credit. This credit goes towards your purchased items and shipping. So if you select such items that the total with shipping is $10, that means the whole thing is FREE.

Click HERE to sign up.